THE BARD’S DARK ENCORE | MOHAMED MAHOU

Cast of Characters

ANIR AFRSAD.17.a student
HEDDEYA AMALO.45.a housewife, Anir’sHEDDEYA
BRAHIM AFRSAD.50.a jobless, Anir’s father
ROMEO .19.appears in Anir’s dream
JULIET.13. appears in Anir’s dream
SHAKESPEARE .56.appears in Anir’s dream
THE POLICE OFFICER .40.appears in Anir’s dream

The Time
A winter day, Evening.

The Place

Interior of Anir’s family flat in Dcheira, a small city in southern Morocco.


Scene One

AT RISE: HEDDEYA, the mother, prepares food in the kitchen. We cannot see her on the stage. Her son, ANIR, is lying on a brown carpet in the middle of a tiny, poorly-furnished living room, reading the play of Romeo and Juliet. Five red big cushions are next the walls. A round low table is beside ANIR, who is wearing a red truck suit. The loud voice of HEDDEYA is heard.)

HEDDEYA (off)
Anir, the dinner will be ready in a minute.
ANIR
(Not paying attention. Keeps reading.)
What?
HEDDEYA (off)
(Shouting again.)
The dinner is over.
ANIR
(Sighs.)
Do you mean vermicelli again?
(HEDDEYA enters, holding a saucepan in one hand and a white iron plate along with three spoons in the other. She is dressed in a casual house dress, with a blue apron tied around her waist. She places the dish on the table in front of ANIR.)
HEDDEYA
Better than nothing, son.

ANIR
(Nods head vaguely.)
I’m fed up with this gap-filler, Inna . Is there something else to eat?
(Pushes the table with one hand, irritably.)
HEDDEYA
(Sits down, facing ANIR.)
Tomorrow’s Friday. I’ll try to bring some couscous from the mosque… I’ll take two plastic bags with me for that.
ANIR
(ANIR makes a horrid face at his mother and yells.)
I hate that, Inna. I’ve nothing to eat and they ask me to read Romeo and Juliet play. (Slapping the book in his hand in frustration.)Is that not funny?

HEDDEYA
What are you talking about?
ANIR
These crazy teachers of Access Program. They don’t know that I need food before books.
HEDDEYA
I don’t get it. Cut it out now and let’s grab a bite. It’s almost 10 p.m.
ANIR
(Holding the book in his hand.)
To getRomeo and Juliet, one should not fuss about the life’sbasic necessities. One should —
HEDDEYA
Who are Romeo and Janette?
ANIR
It’s Juliet. Romeo and Juliet are the symbol of true love.
(Pause.)
Romeo is crazily in love with Juliet. She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair. Their story is about love, Inna.
HEDDEYA
Hshuma
(Pause.)
Stop it and let’s eat.
(With her hand, she puts a bit of food in her mouth.)
ANIR
That’s nonsense. Love isn’t shameful. Being poor, that’s the real shame.
(ANIR stands up and stomps angrily downstage.)
Look at this cave we’re stuck in!(Pointing to the ceiling with frustration).No TV, no computer, no bed, no fridge… It’s downright embarrassing to be living like this in the twenty-first century!
HEDDEYA
Why are you always making a fuss? Go tell that to your jobless dad, not me. He needs to find work to support us and get us a TV and stuff.
ANIR
Patience, Inna. I’ll do like Romeo. Break the rules and do what I want.
HEDDEYA
Who’s that Rambo?
ANIR
(Placing the book on his chest and gazing up at the ceiling.)
Romeo!Romeo. He’s like a total romantic. He’s… He’s all about marrying his girl, even though his family and Juliet’s parents are totally against it.
HEDDEYA
Do you want to get married without my consent? Is this the outcome of my upbringing?
ANIR
(Shaking his head.)
Nope, marriage isn’t on my mind. (Pause)I’m planning to drop out of school and look for a job. I’ll be as bold as Romeo, defying all society’s norms. I’ll chase my dreams and make them come true.
HEDDEYA
(Stands up and holds his hand.)
What? Are you out of your mind? You need to focus on your studies and become the top student in your school. You’re my only hope in this life. Rescue us from this miserable place. (Waving her hand randomly.)
Get us a nice house in Agadir and a big car.
ANIR
Chasing rainbows!
HEDDEYA
What?
ANIR
(Pause.)
Oh, Inna. Do you believe in miracles?
HEDDEYA
(Backs away from him.)
Miracles?
ANIR
Yes, miracles! Getting a great job and eating vermicelli every single day don’t go together. If I achieve your dream, it’ll be the miracle of miracles.
HEDDEYA
When there is a will, there is always a way. (Pause)My grandmother often says: “among rocks serpents come out.”
ANIR
(Shaking his head.)
No, Inna. Snakes don’t dine on vermicelli. Here’s my saying: ‘When vermicelli is your constant meal, anticipate a gloomy fate by eight.’
HEDDEYA
Why are you so pessimistic? Life is ahead of you.
ANIR
A good life… a very good life is determined by the parents you have, the food you eat, the school you attend.(Shrugs) This is a fact, Inna.

HEDDEYA
Are you saying I’m not a good mother?
ANIR
I don’t want to insult you. But I hate this vermicelli.
(Pointing to the saucepan on the table.)
I want some healthy foodto help me focus on my studies, to help me be a man.
(Pause.)
Inna, it’s better to leave school and find manual work. You know, selling things or working in the market in Inezgane.
HEDDEYA
Listen! Don’t be silly. Get your Baccalaureate first. Tomorrow you’ll have a lot of couscous.
ANIR
I hate couscous, too.
(He storms over to the table, kicking a red pillow.)
I can no longer stand couscous. It’s like vermicelli’s cousin.
HEDDEYA
Son, take it easy. We’ll have plenty of food once your father gets a job. We’ll even buy a ram for big Aïd.
ANIR
Forget about Aïd. It’ll be similar to the last one. We’ll wait for aHajj to buy us a skinny lamb and take pictures with us.(Pause.) So shameful! Inna, my father will never get a job. You’re dreaming too much.
HEDDEYA
Don’t be pessimistic.A person falls into twenty holes and emerges safe and sound. One day he’ll change. Finish your studies and get your Baccalaureate.
ANIR
How did you marry him?

HEDDEYA
It was my father who forced me to do it. He saw me in a farm in Houara, picking up oranges. He followed me to my house. The next day he came to ask my hand from my father. In my house there were seven sisters; I was the eldest. I had to get married to make room for my sisters’ turn. It’s a custom.
ANIR
So it was not out of love!
HEDDEYA
Don’t repeat that word. It’s a sin in our village. You have to do your ablutions when you utter it in public.
ANIR
Inna, this’s not your village. We’re in the twenty-the first century. Our village is the whole world.
HEDDEYA
Is that what the Americans teach you?
ANIR
(Ignoring her question.)
You’ve really messed up by marrying this loser. Both of us are paying the price for it now.
HEDDEYA
I didn’t have a choice. Once my father agreed, I had to quit my job on the farm. It was what my father wanted. I had to wait for my wedding day the following week.
ANIR
Why didn’t you do what Juliet did? You should’ve stood your ground and said no.
HEDDEYA
You mentioned that name again. You don’t know my father. He would have killed me if I had discussed the matter with him.
ANIR
Actually, he also killed you when giving you to this jerk.
HEDDEYA
Watch your words. Don’t talk disrespectfully about your father. Are you mad?

ANIR
Not mad, but bound more than a mad man is,
Shut up in prison, kept without food,
Whipped and tormented. I hate him as much as I hate this vermicelli.
(Pointing to the plate on the table.)
HEDDEYA
What are you saying? If you don’t want to eat, go to bed. You need to get up early tomorrow. Forget about this Christian way of living you have in books. Remember here you have to respect your parents no matter what.
ANIR
Christian way?
(Pause.)
I don’t go to the church. It’s a school, Inna.
HEDDEYA
I don’t know. But I feel that your mind is a trifle bewitched with their ideas. I’ll put some incense in the house tonight to undo the spell of the devil from your body.
ANIR
Nonsense. Romeo never believed in such superstitious stuff. There are troubles in our house, but they’re definitely coming from him.
(Shakes his head and EXITS.)

Scene Two

HEDDEYA starts pouring more vermicelli onto the plate as BRAHIM, the father, ENTERS. He’s wearing an old black djellaba, murmuring to himself, and holding a small red petanque ball in his hand.
BRAHIM
(Talking to the ball.)
If I get close to you tomorrow, I’ll be the luckiest guy alive. I’m throwing down 500 dhs tomorrow. Again and again!
(Pause.)
I should win by all means. Yes!
HEDDEYA
(Gazing at BRAHIM for a while.)
You’re crazy about these damn horses!
BRAHIM
(He sits down next to the table.)
What’s up, woman? Horses? Nah, I ain’t chatting about horseracing. Tomorrow is Friday. No horses—
HEDDEYA
You feed horses every day; and we eat vermicelli here. Shame on you.Anir does not want it.
BRAHIM
Let him fast! At least, he has something to grub. Lots of folks have nothing.
HEDDEYA
Vermicelli is also nothing.
BRAHIM
Go dig up something better. I’ve had enough of you. Beggars can’t be picky, you know.
HEDDEYA
Beggars? You’ve made us the worstbeggars on the earth.
BRAHIM
Shut up, horse face. A chameleon adapts to any log she stands on. Alright! Cut it out now!
(Pause.)
Let me think about tomorrow’s match. Put some food on the plate and zip it.
(He throws the red petanque ball in the hood of his djellaba.)
HEDDEYA
Food!
(Shaking her head. She pours some vermicelli on the plate.)
BRAHIM
Yep, it’s food.
(He puts a spoon in his mouth and starts eating.)
Ooh! What’s that? No salt at all!
(HEDDEYA hurries to the kitchen and brings a small bottle of salt.)
HEDDEYA
(Reluctantly sprinkles the salt on the plate and sighs.)
It’s our life that needs salt.
BRAHIM
What do you mean?
HEDDEYA
Try to find something to do. Anirwants to drop out of school to find a job.
BRAHIM
(Pause.)
A loser like his mother.To the hell?
HEDDEYA
(Gazing at him.)
You’re the real loser. Your son is always complaining.
BRAHIM
About what?
HEDDEYA
About everything, your idleness, your carelessness and—

BRAHIM
Tell that spoiled brat of yours to mind his own beeswax. He should concentrate on his studies and forget about me. I know what I’m doing. I’m enjoying my life. Once I win, you’ll see another man in front of you. I’ll start by buying a new house and finding a new wife.
HEDDEYA
What?
BRAHIM
A complete change of my life. But you’ll always be the first one for me, of course, even if you hate me.
HEDDEYA
Who’s this woman who will live with a guy like you? She must be out of her mind, settling for a lazy, heartless, good-for-nothing. A selfish man like no other. You‘re—
BRAHIM
(Stands up and gazes at HEDEYYA; and slaps the spoon on the plate. He points to her.)
Watch your filthy mouth, woman. I’m a guy without a chance. You’re a clueless and foolish person. I did you and your family a favor by marrying you.If it weren’t for me, you’d never have tied the knot, just like your sisters.
(Walks downstage.)
I admit it was the dumbest move of my life to shack up with someone who’s got no ambitions or dreams except for chowing and sleeping.
(Closestightly his hands togetherand holds them up.)
Please Allah, hook me up real soon. Don’t let these tough times drag on forever. Keep the bling under wraps until it’s actually here. Make my day soon. I’ve waited so long. Please, Allah, make this horse face disappear in my life! Please—
HEDDEYA
May Allah take revenge on you, camel face.
BRAHIM
Shut up, woman. You’re interrupting my prayer?
HEDDEYA
Prayer?(Sarcastically) You really crack me up. Ha Ha
(Pause.)
Your forehead has never touched the floor and you say prayer.
(HEDDEYA pushes the table away and stands up.)
BRAHIM
I pray in my own way, monkey face.
(Pause.)
In this damn house, you can do nothing worthwhile. Let’s bounce and grab something out.
(ANIR ENTERS the stage, his eyes widening in surprise as he watches BRAHIM spit twice on the floor as he EXITS.)
Scene Three
(ANIR’s eyes narrow as he stares downstage at the door, while HEDDEYA, who is cleaning up the table, wears a tired and visibly irritated expression.)
ANIR
Why’s he all grumpy again?
(HEDDEYA passes near him without talking. She is carrying the plate and the pan to the kitchen.)
I want to talk to him.
(HEDDEYA is still silent. She returns to take the low table.)
Mum. What’s up?
HEDDEYA
Go to sleep and forget it.
ANIR
Romeo said: O! Teach me how I should forget to think.
HEDDEYA
Hey, listen. Don’t even think about bothering your father late at night or early in the morning.
ANIR
(Raises his voice and makes an angry gesture with his hand.)
I hope I never have to talk to that jerk again for the rest of my life.
HEDDEYA
Stop it now and go to sleep.
(HEDDEYAEXITS. ANIR picks up his book and starts reading loudly.)
ANIR
Ay me, sad hours seem long.
Alas, that Love, whose view is muffled still,
Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will!
Where shall we dine?
O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love
Why, then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything of nothing first create1!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?
(Suddenly, ANIR falls into a deep slumber on a mat. The book of Romeo and Juliet lies open on his chest, and he begins to drift into a vivid dream. He starts to snore softly and occasionally tosses and turns.Then, the lights are off.)

Scene Four
(The light shines on ANIR, who is still sleeping and mumbling incomprehensible words. The stage is empty, except for ROMEO and JULIET, who are draped in pristine white garments and sprawled on the ground. Gnawa music plays briefly as the light emphasizes their presence. Romeo shifts from side to side, as if annoyed by the music. The music then stops and a loud voice speaks.)
THE VOICE (off)
Romeo! Romeo! Wake up!
ROMEO
(Still in his lying position.)
Aye, who goes there?
THE VOICE
Romeo! Rise, thou hast to go. But, remember, Romeo! thou art a corpse. A corpse! Ha Ha!
(The light shines on Romeo, who gets up with great difficulty. He looks around him, trying to figure out where the voice comes from.)
ROMEO
Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
(He stretches his arms and legs; he seems to be unable to walk. Suddenly, he stops and stares at the woman lying on the floor.)
Fancy me. What lady’s that?
(He approaches her.)
Oh, by my troth! ‘Tis Juliet, my lady. Sweet! Thanks be to heaven, I have found thee. Alas, that love, so gentle in its appearance, Should be so tyrannical and harsh in proof. Yet, it still courses deep within my heart.
(In an exhausted and dizzy state, JULIET wakes up and murmurs.)

JULIET
(Rises her head and touches her face.)
I prithee what‘s this?
ROMEO
Hark, good greetings, my fair lady? I am Romeo, thine devoted lover!
(JULIET falls asleep again.Gnawa music is heard for a while, thenit stops again.)
Wake up, my fair lady! Wake up!
JULIET
(Opens her eyes again.)
What befell, dearest? I recollect naught.
ROMEO
In sooth, we are wretchedly deceased, my gentle lady. We existeth no more.
JULIET
Dead? Dost thou mean metaphorically?
ROMEO
(Comes closer to her and holds her hand)
Hearken, my fair lady. Thou and I art in the flesh deceased. Some soul did end our lives long since.
JULIET
Deceased?
(She backs away from ROMEO.)
Art thou well, my dear?
ROMEO
(Holds her hand, trying to calm her.)
Yeah! Pray hearken to me! Somebody hath slain us for some reasons.

JULIET
Romeo, my noble lord, thou art verily mad! Behold, this is my hand, and these, my feet. I am capable of swift motion, see!
(She runs.)
I can jump.
(She jumps.)
I can shout.
(She shouts.)
Juliet! … Juliet!
(Beat.)
Thou proclaimest that we art deceased. Thou must seek the counsel of a physician, I beseech thee.
ROMEO
Thou dost not comprehend. We art deceased in the drama.
JULIET
Drama!
(Pause.)
Stop that, my lord. I shall inform my father anon. Pray, where doth we find ourselves at this moment?
(Looks right and left.)
ROMEO
Somewhere. No! I mean everywhere.
JULIET
Somewhere… Everywhere…
(JULIET is looking at the sky, absent mindedly.)
ROMEO
Hark! Methinks we may be in Dcheira, perchance?
JULIET
Dsch…what?
ROMEO
Dcheira.A small city near Chicago.
JULIET
Dcheira! Chicago! Now am I most certain thou art gripped by madness.
(Beat.)
Pray, retire to thy slumber, for it may restore thy sanity.
ROMEO
My lady, do trust my word. We art deceased. We exist no more, mere shadows or phantoms of the departedare we now.
JULIET
Phantom! I’m not a phantom. Where is my dad? Where are my kinsmen?
(Shouting.)
Lord Capulet … Lady Capulet…. Mum… Dad…
ROMEO
Aye, wherefore are they? Perchance they reside within the halls of the Access Program, engaged in the pursuit of mastering modern English. Alas, my lady, they too hath met their demise!
JULIET
But pray thee, who be these individuals?
(Points to the audience.)
ROMEO
These, my lady, are our readers; they cherish our tragic tale. They do find delight in our woeful story. In their eyes, we stand as valiant heroes, the very emblem of genuine love. Yet, alas, my fair lady, we are but lifeless and breathless.

JULIET

I can’t believe it. Everybody knows about our secret love. It’s so shameful.
My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy.

(Crying.)

ROMEO
Stop crying, my fair lady. We art genuine lovers. These are all enviers. They are all jobless and losers. They are reading and re-reading our story and telling the whole world.Bergaga
JULIET
Bergaga? What does that mean?
ROMEO
A dish in Africa.
JULIET
Africa! Othello’s homeland.
(Gnawa music begins, and JULIET looks around, startled.)
ROMEO
Yes, my fair lady. Othello, a fellow sufferer akin to our plight.
(SHAKESPEARE ENTERS from the upstage door, dressed as a British gentleman in a black suit, bow tie, bowler hat, and glasses. He has a long white beard and a stack of books in his hands. ROMEO and JULIET fix their gaze on him.)
JULIET
Who might that be, my lord?
ROMEO
I know not, fair lady. Tarry a moment, let me ponder in silence.
(Pause.)
(ROMEO approaches SHKESPEARE, who is looking around to explore the place. He removes his glasses, thinking.)
It’s Shakespeare, the author of our death.
(JULIET and ROMEO both run towards SHAKESPEARE. They catch him. The books fall on the ground.)
SHAKESPEARE
Pray, who art thou?
ROMEO
Thou knowest us not, AwldLhram .I am Romeo, and this is Juliet, whilst thou art a murderer.
SHAKESPEARE
What speakest thou of, sir?
JULIET
(Looking at Romeo.)
What are we going to do now?
ROMEO
We shall convey him unto the police station in Dcheira.
JULIET
Police what?
ROMEO
A guardhouse, myfair lady.

JULIET
Let’s take him to Verona, unto my father’s presence. Swiftly, he shall mete out justice upon him.
ROMEO
My gentle lady! Verily, we do not find ourselves in Verona, but rather in Dcheira.
JULIET
Oh, aye! My humble apologies for the oversight. Let us make haste to the guardhouse in Africa.
(Gnawa music resumes. Shakespeare remains silent, perplexed by the unfolding events. He picks up his books from the ground. JULIET and ROMEO push him forward to accompany them.Despite Shakespeare’s initial reluctance, he eventually relents, and they EXIT together.)

Scene five
(A police officer in a blue police uniform sits at a desk. He is reading a newspaper. On the desk is a bottle of water and an old typewriter. SHAKESPEARE, ROMEO, and JULIET burst in with a commotion. SHAKESPEARE refuses to move, so ROMEO and JULIET push him towards the cop.)
THE POLICE OFFICER
(Stands up.)
Hey, stop it!
ROMEO
(Pointing to Shakespeare.)
This is a villain!
SHAKESPEARE
My deepest apologies, but I swear on mine honor, I am no villain.

ROMEO AND JULIET
(Shouting together.)
Yea, thou art indeed.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Stop it all of you! I don’t understand. Who are you?
ROMEO
I am Romeo. This lady, my future bride, and this (pointing to Shakespeare)Shakespeare, the killer.
SHAKESPEARE
(Throws a punch at Romeo.)
I am not a murderer.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Stop!
(Pause.)
Can I see your passports?
ROMEO
What be that?
THE POLICE OFFICER
The official document that permits you to travel abroad.
ROMEO
(Giggling.)
Good sir, we are departed souls, and the departed bear no documents. Seek our tombs, and therein thou shalt find inscriptions, but alas, they shall scarce reveal much—save for our birth and passing dates, which fall short of truth.
(Pause.)
Nay, delve into our play, and therein thou shalt find the full tale of our lives.Thou shall discern the verity, the verity of genuinelove.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Stop! I don’t understand.
JULIET
(Giggling again.)
How foolish doth the living folk appear now!
THE POLICE OFFICER
Mind your language, girl. Give me your identity cards.
ROMEO
No document, good sir!
THE POLICE OFFICER
Where do you live?
ROMEO
We dwell nowhere, good sir. As I have aforementioned, we are but departed souls.
THE POLICE OFFICER
(He picks up the bottle, takes a sip of water,and walks to the front of the stage. He rubs his face, looking puzzled.)
Do you mean I’m talking to dead people now?

JULIET
(Giggling.)
Well done, thou hast grasped it at last.
ROMEO
Yes, good sir.
SHAKESPEARE
(SHAKESPEARE movesnext to the police officer.)
Pray, may I have leave to speak, sir?
ROMEO
No!
SHAKESPEARE
(Pointing to ROMEO.)
I speak not to thee, thou foolish one.
ROMEO
Good sir, do take note of this affront. He doth insult me openly in thy noble presence.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Be silent, both of you! Listen up. I don’t usually pay attention to the dead people here, but today is an exception.
(He takes a seat and begins typing loudly on the machine. JULIET is irritated by the typing noise and covers her ears in annoyance.)
Monday, October 23rd, 2010 at 10 p.m. DcheiraJihadya Police Station. The case: Murder. The victims: Romeo and Juliet. The killer: Shakespeare.
SHAKESPEARE
Hark, sir.
(The Police officer stops typing.)
I am no murderer, nor am I a soul departed. I dwell amidst the tomes of libraries, warm the hearts of lovers, and traverse the realms of television channels, radio stations, renowned theatres and—
ROMEO
Question not his guilt, for he is a slayer of men. He hath, with ruthless intent, extinguished the lives of many lovers and innocent souls. They—

SHAKESPEARE
(Heinterrupts ROMEO and moves forward toward him.)
I am a wordsmith, not a murderer, thou fool.
THE POLICE OFFICER
(He stands up and waves his hands angrily.)
Stop it now! I get confused here.
SHAKESPEARE
Hark, noble sir, attend my words. Matters stand plain and evident. I have not, in the flesh, dispatched any soul. I have but penned a play for all humankind, chronicling the follies of two wayward youths, whom I christened Romeo and Juliet.
ROMEO
We are not errant, old wizard. We were lovers, primed for wedlock. Yet, ere our union could be consummated, thou didst end our existence.
SHAKESPEARE
I aspired to mend thy kin’s strife, once they did learn your sorrowful demise.
(Pause.)
JULIET
Why didst thou not murder our parents and grant us life’s lease?

SHAKESPEARE
Hark! Such a conclusion, it would not weave an engrossing tale. I do confess, your visage bore innocence and charm, yet—
ROMEO
(He comes near JULIET.)
Believe him not, good sir, for he hath slain us to reap profits from our woeful tale. We had orchestrated all for our union, yet his avarice did smother our cherished dreams.
JULIET
(Holding ROMEO’s hands.)
Sweetheart, our affection was profound, a love so rare and fervent. Thou didst rescue me from the clutches of Paris, a wretch man, devoid of any compassion.
(Pause.)
My love for thee knows no bounds, our bond unbreakable. There was no contesting its purpose, no scheming could deter its course. Our love, by fate’s design, found its unwavering path.
(Beat.)
I do adore thee with all my heart! Our love was so strong. There was no striving to cross its intent; there was no contriving its plots to prevent. Our love hath carved its path with boundless zeal and unwavering ardor!
(Caressing Romeo’s hands)
ROMEO
Indeed, my fair lady. Dost thou still recall the time when—
THE POLICE OFFICER
(Angrily.)
Stop it! You’re in the police station, not in a forest. Come here you
(Pointing to JULIET.)
ROMEO
Good sir, permit her to draw nigh, lest he intends to once more end her life.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Come here!
(Dragging JULIET’s hand towards him.)
JULIET
Doucement!Thou art no true gentleman.
THE POLICE OFFICER
I’m not a gentleman with the living. How can I be so with the dead?
ROMEO
Goodsir, I beseech thee, do respect my lady.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Do shut up!
(JULIET looks at Shakespeare and screams.)
ROMEO
Fear not, my dearest. This time, he shall not lay a hand upon thee, for I shall be his end.
(JULIET fearfully stands up next to SHAKESPEARE. She sobs.)
Don’t look at her, villain.
SHAKESPEARE
(He throws a punch to ROMEO, sparking a confrontation between them.)
I am not a villain.
THE POLICE OFFICER
Stop it or I’m going to send you all to prison.
JULIET
(Giggling.)
Hast thou a prison for departed souls?
THE POLICE OFFICER
I said stop it. Stop it. You drive me crazy.
SHAKESPEARE
This, by all means, is a futile expenditure of time. I, a man preoccupied with countless tales awaiting my pen, cannot linger here. (Heading towards the door.)
ROMEO
(Blocking his way.)
Dost thou imply hundreds more souls to ensnare in thy murderous tales?
( Pause.)
A ravenous soul thou art!
(ROMEO draws an imaginary dagger from his chest and thrusts it into SHAKESPEARE’s stomach. SHAKESPEARE cries out in pain and falls to the ground. ROMEO approaches JULIET.Gnawa music starts again.)
JULIET
(The music stops as JULIET approaches ROMEO. She looks at the dagger in his hand.)
Where didst thou procure such a dagger, my love?
ROMEO
It hath been mine companion since they laid our souls to rest in Verona.
JULIET
I slayedmyself with the same dagger.

ROMEO
(He holds JULIET’s hands. The POLICE OFFICER stares at SHAKESPEARE who lies in the floor.)
I do recall. Thou didst not take thine own life; he, in wickedness, didst take thine from thee.
(He points to SHAKSPEARE.)
JULIET
My love!
(Puzzled.)
Thou hast slain the most renowned soul in the world, and in thy malice, thou hast also slain the English tongue.
THE POLICE OFFICER
(Approaches JULIET and holds her hand.)
You’re in big trouble, guys. You’re both being held for the murder of a tourist. I have to warn you that whatever you say can and will be used against you. Please join us without resistance.
(When ROMEO hears this, he pulls his imaginary dagger from his chest and thrusts it into the officer’s back. The officer collapses to the ground instantly. (For a while, Gnawa melodies fill the air as ROMEO and JULIET frantically dash around the stage, unsure what to do next.)

Scene Six
(Exhausted, JULIET sits downstage, her hands covering her head, out of breath. ROMEO rises beside her. ANIR is suddenly enveloped in an eerie, otherworldly light, casting strange shadows. Gnawa music is still loud. ANIR tosses on the floor as if caught in a surreal nightmare, then rises from the ground. He approaches them quickly, as if floating rather than running.)
ANIR
(Panting.)
Hi
ROMEO
Greetings, thou noble soul!
ANIR
(Takes a deep breath.)
I’m here to help you. I’ll take you away from here.
ROMEO
My most humble apologies, but I am unable to comprehend thee.
ANIR
No problem at all. I get what you’re saying. Listen, I saw what happened to you. I’m quite familiar with the play.I’m studying it at school, and we’ll be taking a test on it tomorrow.
JULIET
(She rises and gazes at ANIR. She then turns to ROMEO.)
My lord, what meanethhe by a test upon our tale? Do people doubt our love, so firm and true?
ROMEO
My dearest love, I know not how they construe our tale in this place.
But I care not a whit, for I have at last vanquished Shakespeare, the slayer of our love.
JULIET
Why dost thou not murder our parents, my lord? They, the chief architects of our woeful tragedy, they—
ANIR
Please, kill also my father. He’s the source of my family’s misery.

ROMEO
Grant us space, young one. Thy face is unfamiliar to our eyes.
ANIR
Oh, sorry.Please let me to introduce myself. I’m AnirAfrsad, a high school student. I also study English in the Access Program. I’ll be taking my Baccalaureate exam in just two months. I live in Dcheira. My small house is close to Talmarshit, on the main road to Agadir.
(Points to the upstage.)
JULIET
My dearest love, I am confounded by the words he utters.
ROMEO
This is a novel tongue, my love. The people of today, they speak in intricate ways, devoid of the beauty that once graced our language. No metaphors, no similes and no rhymes. Alas, they have laid waste to our dear old tongue.Pray, let him prattle on, my fair lady. We shall endeavor to decipher his foreign English.
ANIR
I read your love story, and I really feel for you. You’re
(Pause.)
so brave and strong! Your courage… your defiance are truly inspiring. My own life, it’s just so tragic, too. Yes, so tragic…
(Pause.)
ROMEO
Did thy parents keep thee from the sweet embrace of love?
JULIET
Poor soul!
ANIR
Today, love is not our concern. Love matters not; we face different hardships now. We look for bread and work. I don’t come from a noble family like yours. I live in terrible conditions. My father doesn’t have a job; he drinks and gambles every single day.

ROMEO
(Extends his arm and points ahead.)
Art thou acquainted with this place?
ANIR
(Excited.)
Absolutely! This is my little hometown. I’m familiar with every nook and cranny of Dcheira. You wouldn’t believe how well I know it!
ROMEO
Dost thou know of a safe haven where we may dwell in tranquility and security?
(Pause.)
ANIR
Tigmmiufella! Yes, that’s the one! You can find everything there: a hotel, a bank, and schools… My school is right there. I can’t wait to show you around!
ROMEO
Hold your horses, young one! These places matter not to us. What we yearn for is a tranquil location, a sanctuary wherein we may revel in solitude. For it’s the company of others that inflicts suffering upon our souls in this world. We seek no company, young sir!
ANIR
(Disappointed, sighs.)
I’m afraid you’re in the wrong spot. We, Moroccans, are friendly people who enjoy spending time together. We believe that the more the merrier!
JULIET
(Surprised.)
Oh, my lord, prithee, let us make our way back to Verona.
ROMEO
(Approaching her.)
We cannot, for they are set to end our lives once more.
JULIET
We are already departed from this world, my lord.
ROMEO
Aye, in Verona, our lives have met their tragic end. But here, in this place, we may savor our love for a fleeting few days more.
JULIET
(Sighs.)
Mine understanding is obscured.
ANIR
Let’s go to Tigmmi U Fella.
(Romeo takes Juliet’s hand, and they follow Anir upstage. The place is crowded with people, but it’s just a projection on the upstage wall. It’s the second day of Bilmawn’s festival, the skinmen. The music of Bilmawnfills the air.JULIET hesitates to walk through the imaginary crowd.)
JULIET
(Holding Romeo’s hand tightly, JULIET’s eyes dart frantically in every direction, scanning the place. The music stops.)
I cannot walk among this throng, nor shall I dwell in this place.
ROMEO
Fear not, my dearest, for thou shall grow accustomed to it shortly.
ANIR
The festival lasts only three days.
ROMEO
(JULIET holds ROMEO’s hand; she is scared.)
Why do they wear such strange attire, young one?
ANIR
It’s our tradition. We celebrate the big feast like that.
ROMEO
Big feast?
ANIR
Yes, we call it a big feast. It’s a three-day celebration when Moroccans sacrifice rams and goats to God. On the second day, young people in the country’s south take to the streets dressed in masks and lamb hides.

JULIET
(To Romeo.Excited.)
This is akin to the masked revelry held within our abode. Dost thou recall, my love? We all adorned masks.(Pause.) Yet, there were no eerie and pungent hides such as these. ‘Tis loathsome, my love.
ANIR
(To Juliet.)
Watch out one Bilmawn is behind you!
(ROMEO pushes JULIET away and takes out his imaginary dagger high, ready to fight.)
ROMEO
Leave her alone. Let’s fight man to man, dupe.
ANIR
(He tries to stopROMEO from fighting the skinman.)
No, Romeo. He doesn’t want to fight you. He just wants to tease you.
ROMEO
Bid him depart us, or I shall stab him.
(ANIR turns to the skinman and says something in Arabic.)
ANIR
KhllinnaAafak .
BILMAWN
(Uncovers his mask.)
Why the heck are you here, you scoundrel?
ANIR
Father!
(Pause.)
Why are you wearing hides?
BRAHIM
That’s none of your damn business. It’s fun and work. Now, get your butt home and let me enjoy my time with these folks. Maybe they’ll make my day, unlike your ugly face. Get lost!
ANIR
They’re my friends. Go away!
BRAHIM
What?
(He violently hits him with a hoof on his back).
ANIR
(Shouting.)
Romeo! Help me!
(Suddenly, Romeo quickly mimics drawing a dagger from his chest and pretending to stab BRAHIM, who falls to the ground.)
ANIR
(Shouting.)
Romeo, run! Quick!
(Gnawa music starts. ROMEO and JULIETEXIT quickly.)

Scene Seven
(ANIR returns to the place where he has slept. He curls up in a ball while soft music plays. The light shines on him. Suddenly, BRAHIM, his father, ENTERS, clearly drunk.)
BRAHIM
Woman, where the heck are my kids?
(Pause.)
(Shouting, trying to balance his walking.)
Woman! …Where are you, woman?
HEDDEYA
(HEDDEYA shows up, carrying a small brazier. She walks downstage.)
Shayllah,arijallblad.Shayllah,arijallblad. Why are you shouting again?
BRAHIM
I’m not shouting, horse face. What are you doing?
HEDDEYA
(As HEDDEYA spins the brazier around, the scent of incense wafts across the stage.)
Stop shouting! Anir is asleep.
BRAHIM
Where are the others? Wake them up!
HEDDEYA
We’ve just one child. Are you mad?
BRAHIM
Why do we have just one boring kid? You’re not a real woman.
HEDDEYA
(She puts the brazier down and walks upstage.)
You’re not a real man, either.
BRAHIM
(Attempts to approach her but stumbles and falls.)
Never insult me, horse face.

HEDDEYA
Go to sleep! We’ll talk tomorrow.
BRAHIM
Don’t boss me around, a daughter of—
HEDDEYA
Ok! Go to sleep!
BRAHIM
(Points to her.)
Woman, the day I met you was a total bummer. Eighteen years of nothing but boredom and loss. I haven’t won a single race. Not a singledamn one… What a jinx!
HEDDEYA
We have a good son.
BRAHIM
(Reaches for his hood, retrieves a bottle of wine, takes a sip, and then returns it.)
Good… good for nothing! He’s got a lot of your traits. He ain’t a man like me.
(Pause.)
I wanted a bunch of fighters in my family, but you gave me just this one little chick.
HEDDEYA
He’s better than you. He’ll get his Baccalaureate degree soon.
BRAHIM
(Dashes toward her, grabbing her scarf and hair within it.)
You’re so annoying.
HEDDEYA
Leave me alone.
(Screaming.)
BRAHIM
I’m going to kill you today. I’ve lost everything. Five hundred dirhams in one go. It’s all because of you. You’re my rotten luck in this messed-up life.
(The spotlight shines on ANIR, who awakens. He gets to his feet quickly and rubs his eyes.)

ANIR
What’s up?
BRAHIM
Get out of this!
ANIR
(Slowlyapproaches him.)
Leave her alone.
HEDDEYA
It’s ok, Anir. He’s just drunk.
BRAHIM
I’m not drunk, horse face.
(ANIR pushesBRAHIM away. The latter lets HEDDEYA go.)
Come over here, you chicken. You’re a spitting image of your mama.
HEDDEYA
Don’t fight him, Anir. Don’t… He’s drunk.
BRAHIM
You want to quit school, loser. You want to stay with your mom at home. What a chicken!
(He kicks him.)
(ANIR pushes BRAHIM up against the wall. The latter throws punches, which ANIR returns. The sound of music underscores the ongoing kicking and punching. HEDDEYA intervenes to break it up, but her efforts are in vain.)
BRAHIM
I’m living with chickens.
(He takes a bottle of wine from his hood and throws it at ANIR.)
ANIR
(Anir seizes BRAHIM’s collar and forcefully throws him to the ground.)
I’ll kill you, loser. Get out of our house!

HEDDEYA
(Shouting.)
No, Anir. Leave him alone. He’s your father.
BRAHIM
( Shouts.)
He’s not my child. Get out now!
HEDDEYA
He’s drunk. He’ll come to his senses in the morning.
(BRAHIM takes a knife from his hood and stabs Anir’s hand.)
No. Stop it!
(ANIR grabs the knife and thrusts it into BRAHIM’s stomach. BRAHIM falls to the ground in agony.For a moment, the sadmelodiesof Samuel Barber’s song “Adagio for Strings” resonate through the air.)
BRAHIM
(The music stops.)
You got me, you little poney. Ay..(He grips his stomach with both hands.) Bra…vo… Now you’re a true fighter, loser.
HEDDEYA
Anir, you killed your father! Go and call the neighbors. Go!
(Screaming.)
ANIR
He killed us before I killed him. I’ve never had a father. So why pretend to have one? Let the world know that I’ve also murdered my Shakespeare.
(Shouts and holds his head with both hands.)
Romeo, I want to be just like you!

(ANIR walks over to his mother, who is still in tears. He holds her hand and kisses her head. She stands up and they EXIT together. The soft, haunting melody of “Adagio for Strings” fills the place once more.)

MOHAMED MAHOU grew up in the Souss Region of Morocco. He went to IbnZohr University in Agadir, Morocco, and got his Bachelor’s degree in English Studies. For over twenty years, he’s been a high school English teacher. He also earned a Master’s degree in Comparative Studies from IbnZohr University. His short stories have appeared in publications such as Adelaide Literary Journal, Indian Periodical, Publish’dAfrika, The Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, Isele Magazine, and others. In recognition of his literary contributions, he received the Amazigh Writers’ Award (Tirra) in 2011 and the Publish’dAfriKa Magazine Award in 2023. In addition, in October 2023, he was named Brittle Magazine’s Writer of the Month.

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